Sleep. Your life depends on it.

I’ve noticed a trend in many of my patients:  There is a desire to eke out every bit of the day, and that means staying up late.  Just one more episode of the latest binge.  A little more quiet time without the kids.  A bit more time with their spouse or friends.

But what this means is that the alarm still goes off at the same time the next morning and work starts at the same time regardless.  What gives is sleep.  

Americans are sleeping on average 40% less than they did in the 1940’s.  And 40% are getting 6 hours or less a night.  What suffers with lack of sleep? Your health and how you function both at work and at home. 

What gives when you’re sleep deprived?

  • Weight.  There is a clear connection to weight gain and lack of sleep.
  • High blood pressure.  This is actually the number one cause of death in the world, and too little sleep is a contributor to developing elevated blood pressure.
  • Heart disease.  Nearly 2/3’s of us in the US will die of a heart attack or stroke.  One step towards healthier arteries?  Sleep.
  • Diabetes and insulin resistance.   Lack of sleep worsens our metabolism and contributes to the development of pre-diabetes and diabetes.
  • Cognitive function.  This is apparent in work and school performance.  But, in one recent study, that lack of sleep was shown to increase your risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. 
  • Mood. Most of us have experienced the irritability that comes with a poor night’s sleep.  But is also increases the risk of depression and anxiety.  So unfortunately, anxiety can keep you up and lack of sleep can cause anxiety.
  • Immune system.  This is weakened with lack of sleep, making you more vulnerable to infections, including colds and flu, as well as other more serious infections.
  • Ability to drive.  Hand-eye coordination suffers with lack of sleep and can be as dangerous as driving drunk.
  • Energy.  Fatigue increases with lack of sleep.
  • Libido and fertility.

All of this adds up to not just misery, but to a shortened life expectancy.

So how much sleep do you need?  That depends on your age and how sleep deprived you are.  For most adults, we need between 7 and 9 hours a night.

The most common complaint that patients come to me with is fatigue and the first place to start is looking at their sleep, both for quantity and quality.  Worry and interrupted sleep are 2 big reasons that I see that effect sleep, besides not making enough time for sleep a priority.

Here’s a start to improving the quantity and quality of sleep:

  • Make sure that you give yourself enough time in bed to get enough sleep.  Include in that time space to wind down and do your night time rituals.  This is key and may take some change in your habits.
  • Decrease interruptions.  These often come from a full bladder, a snoring or moving spouse, or pets or children in bed.  Limit the amount of fluid that you drink after dinner so that you are less likely to have to get up to pee.  Put children in their own bed and kick pets out of your bed.  Sometimes mattresses that don’t translate motion across them can be helpful.
  • Make sure that your bed is comfortable and that your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Limit caffeine during the day.  Yes, it can help you make it through with less sleep, but caffeine, with a half life of 6-7 hours, for most of us hangs out in our systems.  This means that you have 1/4 of the caffeine that you had for the morning at bedtime, and might be just enough to add to being awake in the middle of the night.
  • Sleep at regular times, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.  Our bodies crave regularity and habit.  Focusing on being as consistent as possible, even on the weekends, can go a long way to improving sleep.  Staying up late over the weekend is a big contributor to feeling like Mondays are, well, Mondays.  This is known as social jet lag and takes a couple of days to recover from.
  • Manage your anxiety.  Relaxation recordings, yoga nidra, hypnosis, mediation, and personal biofeedback (like HeartMath) are just some of the ways to help you wind down and go to sleep.
  • Limit alcohol.  Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it often is a big contributor to awakening in the middle of the night.  Try a period of not drinking, I suggest 3-4 weeks, and see how this effects your sleep.

If you would like to know more about how the new medicine of integrative and functional medicine can help you to optimize your health, schedule a free 15 minute discovery phone call with me.

Schedule Free Discovery Phone Call

Do you know your vascular age?

This Tuesday we have an ultrasonographer coming to the office to take a peak at your carotid arteries to see just how old your arteries are.  If you’re beginning to build up plaque, that’s a sign of “hardening of the arteries,” better known as atherosclerosis and the precursor to most heart attacks and strokes.  Using an ultrasound is a non-invasive, non-toxic way to get a pretty good sense of what your arterial system health status is.

We still have slots left for 10/2/18, so call the office or click the schedule an appointment button and schedule for the CIMT (carotid intimal medial thickness scan).  Even if you’re not a patient yet, call the office and we can start to work together here.  

Thanksgiving Thoughts and Office Schedule

As you prepare for Thanksgiving, whether it’s to travel or to host a feast, I want to suggest that you take a moment each day to acknowledge what you appreciate in your life. In Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine, we like to use tools that have been shown to have a benefit. It’s been well studied that focusing our thoughts on what we love and appreciate can actually change how our brains function, improving our mood.

Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies happiness, has 2 exercises based on gratitude that have been proven to increase happiness and wellbeing – the Three Good Things Journal and the Gratitude Visit.

With the Three Good Things Journal, every day write down three good things that happened to you and why you think they happened. In Seligman’s studies, after doing this for a month, people’s moods were elevated and they had less depression which lasted for six months.

In the powerful exercise, the Gratitude Visit, you take a week to write a letter of gratitude to someone who has been especially kind to you, who you have never properly thanked. Then you deliver it in person. This practice has been shown to result in significant improvements in mood for the following month.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of your lives, sharing knowledge and practices that enrich us both.

So not only is this a time of harvest festivals around the globe, and preparations for the long dark winter to come, it is a time to gather those that we love and appreciate around us, and to truly give thanks, both for what we have and for the more lasting good cheer it brings.

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We will be closed for the week of Thanksgiving from Tuesday through Friday. And as always, I will be available by phone and email for your emergent needs.

Office closure 9/24-10/5/15

I’m off to the high desert of New Mexico for a little R&R. Part of my journey will be an age old healing tradition of “taking the waters.” There are plenty of rich mineral hot springs around Santa Fe and Taos, that have soothed the weary and achy for as long as there have been humans. There is also something so healing about the clear mountain air, brilliant sunshine, and the sheer beauty of the land, now highlighted with aspen trees turning bright yellow. Nature is the perfect antidote to our modern, crazy pace. I will see you after 10 days of resting and hiking, and continue the healing journey in the office refreshed. Dr. Babak Kanani will be available by phone for your emergency needs while I’m away.

When is your next walk or soak in nature?

Detox Advanced Practice Module

I’m off once again to an Institute of Functional Medicine conference, this time on detox, “Understanding Biotransformation and Recognizing Toxicity: Evaluation and Treatment in the Functional Medicine Model.” Certainly “detox” is quite a buzz word now and the band wagon is full of detox products and protocols. Sorting out what is needed for an individual is key – our bodies are constantly in the process of eliminating toxic substances that we absorb and some do this better than others, and some used to do it better than they do now. Figuring this out, how and when to support one’s detox systems, can make a huge difference to our health as we all now live in the toxic swamp that is modern life.

The office will be closed from July 13th through the 15th, reopening on Thursday the 16th. As always, I will be available for urgent calls and by email while I’m in Chicago for this conference.

Immune Advanced Practice Module, Institute of Functional Medicine

The office will be closed March 5th and 6th while I attend the IFM conference on the immune system. This is another exciting course in Functional Medicine, and looks at one of the foundational causes of disease, the dysfunction our immune system. This has wide reaching implications for treatment and prevention. For example, inflammation is a root cause of heart disease and a dysfunctional immune system is a root cause of cancer. There is also the possibility of modulating an immune system gone haywire, such as in rheumatoid arthritis. As always, I am delighted to bring back more advanced skills to my practice of medicine.

Happy New Year

The office will be closed this week over new years, from Monday 12/29/14 to 1/2/15. I’ll be back on Monday the 5th. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fun New Years celebration.

The office will be closed 5/29-31/14.

The Annual Institute of Functional Medicine Conference is in San Francisco and is all about nutrition, one of my favorite topics.  The title is, “Functional Perspectives on Food and Nutrition:  The Ultimate Upstream Medicine.”  I’ll be there Thursday through Saturday, so I won’t be at the office but can be reached by phone if needed.  Food is our best medicine, and this will continue to deepen my knowledge and ability to bring the latest science to you for your health.

Office closing 3/27/14-3/30/14

Leonardo_da_vinci,_Heart_and_its_Blood_Vessels

“Heart and its Blood Vessels” by Leonardo da Vinci

I’m off to Boston for an Institute of Functional Medicine conference on Cardiovascular issues for this long weekend.  The office will be closed but I will be available by phone should you need me (unless it is an emergency, then the ER or 911 would be appropriate). The office will reopen Monday, 3/31/14.

About 2/3 of us will succumb to heart attacks.  This was not always the case.  Our modern diet and lifestyle are to blame for most of this.  Integrative medicine already has so much wisdom around how to reduce one’s risk, including options like changing to the Mediterranean diet.  This diet is based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil and fish, with small quantities of meat and poultry, with very little processed foods, flour, or sweets, and is proven to reduce your risk of heart attack, even if you’ve already had one.  This reduction can be up to 70%, more than any drug can boast, including statins.

This conference will dive more deeply into strategies to help prevent, reduce, and, in some cases, even reverse coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.  I’m excited to bring this knowledge back to all of you.

Deena

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